India's taxi war has reached a new low and this time it's the internet which has become the new battleground. Intensifying the long-standing acrimony between them, Ola has now opened a new front for the battle: it has accused Uber of being a foreign company that's breaking laws.
Ola filed an affidavit in the Karnataka High Court on Monday, in which it accused “foreign companies” (read Uber) of flouting Indian laws and doing business in India only for profit.
Not surprisingly, Uber struck back.
In a rebuttal, Bhavik Rathod, Uber's General Manager for West and South India, wrote in a blog post:
"What makes Uber 'foreign'? The fact that we are established in San Francisco but have a hyperlocal team solving problems that are locally relevant? Or that, just like our competitors, we received most of our funding from 'foreign' investors?"
“It’s not about ‘bypassing laws of the land,’ but it’s about building for tomorrow by participating today, so we don’t stifle the innovations that are surely coming to us tomorrow,” he said.
That's when COO Pranay Jivrajka, without naming Uber launched a scathing attack and said in a blog post titled The law is the law,
It is a shame that our competition has to fan a debate of nationalism to hide their identity of being a multi-national, with serial violations of law as a business strategy, not just in India, but globally. This debate in our view is not about foreign vs local but who is respectful of the local laws and who is disrespectful
Given that most of Ola's funding is foreign, it's often asked just how ‘national’ is Ola then? In an attempt to establish Ola’s desi credentials, Jivrajka compared Ola to Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba and wrote:
"Over the past couple of days, there has been an irrelevant debate around organisations operating in the country being national or international. Isn't a company like ALIBABA, run by a local entrepreneur like Jack Ma, 'Chinese,' despite having a majority of its shareholding from international investors?''
Emphasising how Ola, unlike Uber, is a "law abiding company," with utmost concern for the safety of citizens, the COO further wrote:
"It is only detrimental to the nation's interests to take a confrontational approach. As a matter of principle, Ola has always taken an approach of working in partnership with the government."
The criticism just didn't end there and Ola dug up the past to show how Uber disregards Indian laws,
Without naming Uber, Jivrajka said, "When competition entered in India, they launched with a 'card on file' payment system. This was in gross violation of RBI regulations, yet they continued this for more than a year, fully knowing the violation, and it took an ultimatum from the Governor of the RBI to make them fall in line."
Ola, he said, chose not to do this and had to face disadvantages:
"Similarly, during the Delhi Diesel ban, Ola committed to 100 per cent CNG adoption of vehicles within the state proactively. On the other hand, even after the High Court Orders came into effect, competition chose to continue plying diesel vehicles with absolute disregard for the state and the court of law, until a contempt petition forced them to cease and desist."
So, how will Uber respond? Perhaps a new blog post is being written?